AGENDA: Halting the slide of the Tories

It’s the ultimate marketing challenge - how to make the Conservative Party electable. Despite nagging doubts about Tony Blair’s style of government, after a year in office there is still no sign that the electorate is starting to trust the Tories again. Last month, rumours emerged that William Hague was even considering a name change to bring back the voters. Marketing asked three agencies from different disciplines - Publicis, The Brandnaming Company and Lexis Public Relations - to outline how they would rebrand the party if Hague came knocking at their door

It’s the ultimate marketing challenge - how to make the

Conservative Party electable. Despite nagging doubts about Tony Blair’s

style of government, after a year in office there is still no sign that

the electorate is starting to trust the Tories again. Last month,

rumours emerged that William Hague was even considering a name change to

bring back the voters. Marketing asked three agencies from different

disciplines - Publicis, The Brandnaming Company and Lexis Public

Relations - to outline how they would rebrand the party if Hague came

knocking at their door



CORPORATE IDENTITY: THE BRANDNAMING COMPANY



With a 400-odd majority to New Labour and the Blair brand blazing

bright, how do you turn around the fortunes of a Conservative Party

that’s as divided as it is defeated?



At The Brandnaming Company, we approached the problem by voting for

strategy as well as creativity.



The first thing we did was to ask the question: Does the name need to

move things on slightly, appreciably, or radically?



Together with our colleagues from CLK, we identified three areas of

interest.



Then with our colleagues from MPL, we designed identities around

them.



These were: The Conservative Party as defenders of a strong UK;

Conservatives as the facilitator of individual freedom; and

Conservatives as listening, caring, and in partnership with the

electorate.



For Route One we came up with ’United Conservatives’ - the

Conservatives’ version of ’New Labour’ values: tradition, belonging and

strength. Design-wise, we would lose the blues and move into purple.



For Route Two, we moved into more branded territory. ’Reliance’ is the

name and new, New Labour is the game, with the suggestion of alliance,

consistency and reliability.



In fact, of all the names, we felt this reflected current political

naming best. It has a touch of the Continental, deliberately losing any

formality in terms of ’The’ or ’Party’. It also has bags of sayability -

the holy grail for namewriters around the world: ’Vote for Reliance’

truly appeals and reveals. The identity reflects all of this, with the

dual suggestion of a supporting arch and an R.



And finally? On this one we really pushed the vote out. The thinking

behind ’One’ was, ’let’s get this down to something modern, iconic and

epitomising’. It also mixes notions of winning (won) with notions of the

individual. We drew up two versions of an identity for One (left).



Ultimately, this project confirmed what our mixture of strategy and

creativity makes us believe.



That, like the politicians, with a decent platform, you can change the

world.



Julian Gorham, creative head; Shona O’Connor, senior designer, The

Brandnaming Company



ADVERTISING: PUBLICIS



The Labour Party honeymoon may be over, but attack them too overtly, too

early and the Tory party risks channelling public feeling into a certain

sympathy for them.



’Come off it, they’ve only been in a year,’ is swiftly followed by, ’You

had 18 years and look at what a mess that was ...’ So brutal attack may

not be the best way forward.



Sadly, we don’t think that concentrating on politics is the way

forward.



It’s not election time and people don’t understand the issues, let alone

care about them. We also don’t feel that William Hague’s persona - words

and looks - is strong enough to counter the Cheshire-cat smile of Tony

Blair.



But, Blair’s ready smile and eagerness to rely on soothing, ambiguous

words is a handy device to demonstrate, in a subtly, fairly unbranded

way, the dumbing down of politics. The ’quote’ posters (using real

quotes taken from Hansard) neatly demonstrate the ambiguity and lack of

commitment Blair often shows.



This Tellytubbies-style fantasy world where nothing unpleasant ever

happens could also be illustrated in a TV ad which would feature Tony

Blair as a Woody from Toy Story-style puppet, being questioned by

someone like David Dimbleby.



Each time Dimbleby’s voice is heard asking Blair about his achievements,

the puppet turns around, gives a huge beaming smile and says, ’What I

believe in is a caring, sharing 90s,’ in a mechanical, taped voice.



These are the Labour-knocking ads. But, ultimately, the Conservative

Party needs to begin to project a more positive image for itself. We

don’t believe changing the name would achieve this, as it would imply

there was something wrong with the original.



The key is for the party now to target much younger people, the 13- to

30-year-olds. By the time of the next election, their memories of the

sleaze of the Tories in office will have faded, and the Conservative

Party needs to capitalise on this.



It needs to show that, whereas Labour is the party of presentation,

Conservatives are politicians who think things through.



The old Tories (capital T) were wiped out at the last election and

there’s a new breed of politician on the scene: young doers, who don’t

care about politics but do care about making Britain a modern place to

live in. They are the tories (small t).



Most people recognise the values which are at the heart of good

conservatives (small c) - hard work, commitment, resourcefulness - and

these are the qualities we draw attention to in the final set of poster

ads.



The Conservative Party needs to reclaim these positive attributes and

give voters the permission to feel good again about being

conservative.



They need to know that natural conservative values are as fresh and

relevant today as anything New Labour has to offer.



Stephen Meade, managing partner; Chris MacDonald, board account

director; Marie-Louise Neill, planning director, Publicis



More examples of these ads can be found on Marketing Online -

www.marketing.haynet.com



PUBLIC RELATIONS: LEXIS



A political party may be a more complex beast than a supermarket chain -

and they don’t come more complex than the Conservative Party - but the

similarities between Asda before Archie Norman and today’s Tories are

stunningly obvious. In 1991, Asda was suffering a triple crisis:

confidence, identity and finance. Fortunately, they hired a charismatic

leader ... Even with Norman as vice-chairman in charge of party reform,

William Hague is not seen to be forcing the pace on the radical overhaul

that must inevitably take place if the Conservatives are to regain power

within the next 15 years. No advertising imagery or clever logo

redesigns can mask the parlous state of a party that is in disrepair,

divided in tone and content (putting it kindly), and whose front bench

team is short on charisma. And, of course, you can’t change a brand’s

image until the product is right.



Hague’s PR team must face up to the full reality of the situation:

people will respond more positively if they think the leader at least

understands the problem. So far, their glossy statements on local

council election gains and completed constitutional reforms have

withered in print and on the airwaves, as disbelieved as they were

unbelievable. ’Plan A’ in PR terms, then, is some simple truths, told

with humility.



Hague’s early stunts - ham-fisted photo opportunities to identify with

young people - made him look foolish. ’To thine own self be true,’ to

quote Norman on Asda’s renaissance.



’Plan B’: Who Hague? Explain with eloquence and real cultural references

- and not a little smattering of Mrs Hague - in papers and supplements

read by the chattering classes, the sort who said in 1992: ’You know,

Asda’s not really as bad as you think ...’



How do you turn a man who’s young and inexperienced into a serious

player?



A Hague gravitas strategy is essential, particularly for TV. He needs

behind-closed-doors meetings with world heavyweights like Clinton, Kohl

and Chirac, if only for the pre-meeting photocalls. Last week’s

handshake with Chirac received only split-second TV coverage because it

was eclipsed by the INSEAD Euro speech made on the same day. Clearly his

advisers are not yet properly scheduling media opportunities to build

their man’s reputation.



’Plan C’: Court broadcast journalists and producers, particularly those

worn down by run-ins with Alastair Campbell.



If Hague’s railing against closer integration within Europe was a trial

run at a clear point of difference with Labour, it smacked of short-term

tactics. We need vision, mission and direction before arriving at the

brass tacks. Is it Thatcherism in a suit, or one-nation Toryism, or

something new? We have no idea.



’Plan D’: Get the Tory think-tanks cranked up and producing and, to show

someone’s doing some thinking, line up some exclusive treatments in the

Murdoch press.



’Plan X’, of course, is the crisis scenario - loud calls for a new

leader and the media baying for blood. At the moment, however, William

Hague and the Conservative Party really aren’t that interesting.



Bill Jones, chief executive, Lexis Public Relations



A Hague gravitas strategy is essential, particularly for TV. He needs

behind-closed-doors meetings with world heavyweights like Clinton, Kohl

and Chirac, if only for the pre-meeting photocalls.



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